Thoughts on Thanksgiving and Offerings

My cat loves to roam around outside then come back for meals or to go to bed. He makes gifts out of the things he has hunted around the neighborhood or out in the field. I appreciate how he keeps mice out of our home and the mole population down. I appreciate how in the summer he sits on the potato tires keeping an eye out for rabbits or paws my head when I sit and read. He’s thankful for cat food, a warm dry place to sleep, and scritches. It’s our human and cat exchange so I don’t fuss at him.

Thanksgiving is being celebrated in the U.S. People are gathering with family and their community to offer thanks for what they have. My family always did. We put all of our hope and dreams into a big old holiday basket of perfect family and love. Since there are members and ex-members of my family with tempers, that day of family joy rarely happened. It took me a long time to learn that the perfect holiday isn’t what gives people a sense of belonging or understanding with others. Sometimes it’s the spontaneous gatherings that create the most memories. Maybe because there is less pressure. My mother-in-law had a similar philosophy on random acts of community and family. She was raised in a Christian tradition that didn’t celebrate holidays. I asked her why she didn’t celebrate holidays or birthdays. I expected a theological reason but she said, “Everyday is an opportunity to celebrate relationships and do something nice for someone.” Instead of focusing on unreachable holiday expectations, she offered a human to human exchange.

A similar type of exchange between humans and spirits or Deities are common in different cultures and religions around the world even in the occult and Paganism.

When I present offerings there are several reasons. I’m either making a good will gesture when asking permission of a Guardian spirit to hold a ritual in a space I am new to or trying to open up communications with a new entity. The second is I’m maintaining communion, the sharing of thoughts or feelings, with entities that are important to me.

For many years I’ve placed out food, libation, and sometimes flowers or herbs on my property at each turn of the Wheel. Often I’ll do this after a major Working or once in a while on a full moon if I feel the need. It’s offered to my ancestors, guides, guardians, elementals, spirits of the house and land, and Divinity. Currently I present food offerings at either the redbud or small cedar in the backyard. Neither tree is considered old. A spirit resides in one or the other depending on it’s mood. It has a strong presence and it aids in protecting the yard and house.

When my husband and I travel to outdoor locations where we’ve held a lot of rituals or there is a strong sense of connection to the land we bring an offering. There we’ll give coins or stones. Bringing outside flowers could disrupt the ecosystem by introducing a non-native species or disease. We don’t offer food because we don’t want to attract animals and bugs. Well, that happens at home, too.

When I was working and living in the Pacific Coastal Mountains of California, I left elaborate offerings each full moon under the apple trees by the front door. One morning I discovered dozens of ants rolling around and wobbling near the wine bowl and most of the food was gone. Next, skunks started coming around the night of the full moon waiting for the goods.

“Hun,” my husband said. “I can’t go out there to smoke.” There were too many. He had to run them off by banging a stick around the ground.

I stopped giving food offerings and switched to simply pouring some alcohol under the trees. The skunks, though, still came around for a couple of months at the full moon until they got the hint. I rarely leave a libation or offerings out in a bowl or plate now. I pour and scatter evenly around the tree in a way casting a circle where I invite my spiritual allies to join me so we can talk and I may offer my thanks.

We have to make similar sharing choices with humans. What level of communication do we choose with our neighbors, or family members? Who is allowed at our table and who are we comfortable visiting. It is exactly the same with our spiritual allies and ancestors. Once we decide who to befriend, long lasting deeply satisfying relationships are built. We may have relationships mainly for magical workings, too. But this holiday, let’s ponder the kind we can truly be thankful for.

Please share your comments and insights on sharing thanks with spirits and Gods/Goddesses. You’re all ways welcome to share this post with others.

 

About Tara Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a Neo-Pagan panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She writes the Staff of Asclepius blog and has a personal website at www.taramaserymiller.com

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    There is so much wisdom in this story! The importance of being hospitable to the gods, ancestors and spirits, the need to find appropriate offerings (it’s NOT just the thought that counts!), the power we have to decide who is allowed at our table. And the most important lesson: if you stop feeding skunks they’ll stop coming around. That’s a lesson a lot of Pagan groups need to learn.

    Happy Thanksgiving, and may your table be surrounded by allies.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      John, I’m glad you found bits of wisdom in my post. The story of the skunks eating the offerings does apply to people who stink up gatherings with rude or other behaviors that are counter to a friendly, constructive environment. That’s wonderful.


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